March 2, 2018
While Minnesota’s 2017 legislative session had a number of positive steps to help protect our rivers, lakes, and streams, there is still plenty of work to do in Minnesota’s 2018 legislative session.
Reducing Chloride Pollution in Lakes, Rivers and Streams
Conservation Minnesota is partnering with a wide coalition of groups to help pass legislation this session that aims to reduce chloride pollution caused by excessive salt application. Many individuals and snow removal companies feel pressured to over-apply salt to snowy sidewalks and parking lots during the winter. This legislation aims to expand a certified salt applicator training program so that best management techniques are used and parking lots and sidewalks are not excessively salted. The legislation aims to reduce liability for those who have completed a certified salt applicator training program. Minnesota’s lakes and rivers continue to face serious threats from chloride pollution, and this legislation is working to help protect our water resources.
Implement the New Buffer Law
Across Minnesota over 97% of the public waterways that require a riparian vegetative buffer are in compliance with the new buffer law (as of December 2017). Compliance with buffers along public ditches will be required by November 1, 2018. Conservation Minnesota will work to maintain comprehensive and fair implementation of the buffer law as it applies along both public waters and along public ditches. We will also defend the buffer law against those who wish to limit or repeal it. Vegetative buffers or similar alternative practices are one step we can take to help protect our water resources.
Conservation Easements Can Help Water Quality
Many Minnesotans know that conservation easements often benefit the water quality of downstream lakes, rivers, and streams, by limited development on the easement land. A few years ago, the law was changed so that lands under new conservation easements can no longer receive a property tax reduction based on that easement. While this recent change does not apply to easements in the shoreland zone, Conservation Minnesota recognized that some conservation easements outside the shoreland zone can still have a significant impact on nearby water resources. Conservation Minnesota is looking to fix the law with legislation that will allow landowners who utilize conservation easements – for any number of reasons, including to promote water quality – to qualify for property tax relief on a case by case basis.
Bonding to Help Clean Water
To help finish the state’s share of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), the Governor proposed $30 million in bonding to help pay for permanent protection for riparian lands, wetlands, and wellhead protection areas. Over the last few years, the state has almost completed putting up $150 million in state dollars to trigger $350 million in federal dollars for CREP. The $30 million in bonding for CREP will help protect our lakes and rivers while ensuring that other conservation funding can be put to the best use possible.
Properly treating wastewater is critical to keeping many lakes and rivers clean, but Minnesota’s water infrastructure is aging and seriously in need of improvements. The Governor proposed $167 million in the bonding bill to help cities and municipalities repair and replace outdated wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. Many legislators have recognized the need for this funding and Conservation Minnesota is working with a broad coalition of legislators and other organizations to help get this legislation passed.
Conservation Minnesota is always looking to support additional legislation that will protect and promote our state’s lakes and rivers. This includes legislation regarding aquatic invasive species, groundwater resources, and other water related issues. Additionally, we’re looking out for legislation that tries to repeal important water quality protections, or might jeopardize the future of our beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams. With your help, Conservation Minnesota looks to protect the Minnesota you love.